Reading’s Role in Academic Success

Clinical Expertise

by Sharon M. DiFino, PhD, CCC-SLP | Aug 2, 2017

As summer time comes to an end, students and parents are preparing to go back to school by shopping for new outfits, backpacks and school supplies. While back to school is indeed an exciting time offering students a fresh start to the new academic year, returning to school can also present many new learning challenges.

Academic expectations increase with each grade and the role of reading becomes increasingly more important. Reading experts all agree, reading is a fundamental skill that impacts every aspect of a child’s academic success and is a key component for quality of life. Even pediatricians have come to realize the significance of parents reading to infants and toddlers. Learning to read starts at birth and continues throughout a child’s academic career.

As children become more skillful with rhyming and cadence in the very first books parents read aloud to them, they begin to recognize novel words and can demonstrate the ability to read more fluently and ultimately for comprehension. They are on the path to becoming skillful, independent readers. Up to the fourth grade, children are building these basic literacy skills. While they may still continue to work on building fundamental literacy skills beyond fourth grade, the emphasis at this point shifts to the acquisition of content and mastery of the content. Less importance is placed on reading acquisition. Children’s spelling is now expected to be more accurate; sentences are imbued with grapheme patterns learned from previous grades as well as the application of writing conventions.

Tricks, strategies and ways to make reading fun

  • Reading, writing and spelling can be fun if activities include multi-sensory approaches such as those prescribed by Orton-Gillingham, emphasizing sound to symbol associations by utilizing auditory, visual and kinesthetic, as well as tactile (touch) associations. Have a child listen to a word, speak the word, read the word and write the word.
  • Multi-sensory approaches enable children to engage all of the senses which helps to bring reading to the cognitive level. Furthermore, multi-sensory activities that incorporate gross motor movement are more likely to be even more fun and motivating. For example, have children scoot on their bellies across a gym floor while trying to remember the word they read on one end of the gym as they race to the other end to write it on a white board.
  • Outside of the classroom or therapy office, children can also enjoy print rich experiences by going to book fairs, libraries, church or community events where they are exposed to the world of print. Because we know, “the more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” (I Can Read with My Eyes Shut by Dr. Seuss)

When should parents become concerned there could be a problem?

Early intervention is crucial and parents should not wait until fourth grade. Waiting as late as fourth grade to seek reading intervention places a child at risk for falling further behind in literacy skills and increases the likelihood of repeating a grade.

Parents should already be looking for risk factors as early as pre-school and kindergarten. During this time, a child is at risk when s/he cannot recognize some of the letters in his/her name, cannot recognize two words that have the same rhyme (toy-boy), spells using random marks or scribble instead of letter forms and shows a strong preference for a parent reading to him/her.

For first through third grade, a child is at risk when s/he cannot remember names of letters, has difficulty decoding words in print (sounding out), difficulty with forming letters and spacing words on a page when writing, skipping over words while reading, has slow, inaccurate oral reading and/or writing and continues to read pictures more than print on pages of books.

If you are concerned about a child’s reading readiness, speak to your pediatrician about a referral for an evaluation by one of our certified therapists.

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